Monday, 31 August 2020 02:10

Impact of Covid on Wiltshire Council 'down considerably' Featured

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The latest financial report from Wiltshire Council shows that the local authority forecasts a £5.9m shortfall due to the impact of coronavirus.

While this figure is ‘down considerably’ from initial estimates in May, the council says it is ‘not out of the woods’.

At the cabinet meeting in May, the estimated overspend sat at between £18m to £51m.

By July, however, this figure was reduced to £36m in the council’s first overall budget report.

Cllr Pauline Church, cabinet member for finance, said: “We are certainly not out of the woods and will likely still require further funding from the government, however, our quick reaction to the financial challenges has afforded us some time to be able to plan in great detail.

“This will allow us to continue to help the county recover and get back strongly on its feet, in a way that is financially resilient.

“While this is an improving picture and we expect to deliver a balanced budget for this financial year, challenges remain and will do so for the foreseeable future.

“As we have done throughout this, we will continue to provide frequent full transparency on the financial challenges we face as a result of Covid-19, and our plans to meet these head-on.”

To date, the council has received £29m in grants from the government to lessen the financial pressures brought on by the pandemic, as well as a loss of income scheme to compensate local authorities.

According to the council’s ‘prudent estimate,’ this will bring in an additional £6m.

In unprecedented times, the council says that the situation is constantly changing from week-to-week.

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “For instance, forecast costs associated with Home to School Transport alone will be reducing by over £6m from the May forecast due to schools reopening and the social distancing guidance on transport from September.”

Other ‘ongoing challenges’ reported by the council include council tax payments, as the council sees increased requests by residents for payment amendments.

A council spokesman added: “The council quickly acted to put measures in place to mitigate the challenges, including making changes to its capital programme, introducing tight controls on spending and an external recruitment freeze, while still continuing to provide quality services to residents.

“Couple these measures with the government funding, it means the council's General Fund reserve is no longer forecast to be exhausted.”

Read this article on the Gazette and Herald here...

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